Across the country, large numbers of students walked out of classes on Friday in order to protest what they believe is inadequate government action to combat climate change.
School districts across the country dealt with the proposed strike in a number of ways, with some districts almost encouraging students to strike, while others promised that students who left classes without permission would receive unexcused absences or other punishments.
The Pittsburgh Public School district issued a statement on the proposed protest that seemed to straddle the line. Their statement essentially stated that any student that wanted to participate in the protest would need to obtain signed written parent consent to attend, otherwise they would receive an unexcused absence tardy or absence.
The District’s message about tomorrow’s Global Climate Justice Strike is below. https://t.co/WhG4yfYcfO— Pgh Public Schools (@Pgh Public Schools)1568931210.0
As noted in the school district's tweet, the district explicitly "support[ed] students' rights to lawfully and peacefully protest," but merely required students to obtain parental permission to skip classes for the protest in order to avoid receiving an unexcused student absence.
Apparently, even this lax policy was too stringent for Pittsburgh's Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto, who promptly took to Twitter to promise that he would sign permission slips for any student to attend the protest that could not get their parents' permission.
I will also be signing permission slips for students tomorrow from 12 noon to 1230 on the Portico of the City-Count… https://t.co/fFWPTRDtgO— bill peduto (@bill peduto)1568938435.0
In a subsequent statement given to KDKA-TV, the Mayor's office seems to have realized that his blatant subversion of parental authority may not have been legal. The mayor's office claimed that Peduto's tweet was "tongue in cheek" and acknowledged that "his office is unsure on if they can legally sign permission slips" for children whose parents refused to sign them, but insisted that they were exploring options and that the Mayor would, in fact, make himself available for a half hour on Friday on the portico of the City Council building to sign permission slips for any student that brought him one.
It is unclear whether any students took him up on this offer, or whether the Pittsburgh School District honored any permission slips signed by the mayor.